The Making of De La Soul’s “Rock Co. Kane Flow” featuring MF DOOM

David Ma dives deep in the credits of De La's 2004 heater by speaking to the song's producer, Jake One.
By    August 6, 2020

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If anyone laughs at David Ma‘s mask, he’ll give ’em a head up.

Posdnuos hints at the production strength in the most Posdnuos way possible: “So systematically inclined to pen lines, without saying the producer’s name all over the track. Yeah I said it! What you need to do is get back to reading credits.”

Low-key titan producer, Jake One, made the beat where it landed on De La’s seventh album, The Grind Date. On it were big name heavyweights 9th Wonder, Dilla, and Madlib. But “Rock Co. Flow” was the clear standout with its dynamic breakdown sequence and a supervillain guest spot. Footage exists of the song being performed on Last Call with Carson Daly, where a paunch DOOM in an Ewing jersey stomps around stage as De La does the robot in unison. Everyone looks like they’re having fun and DOOM laments: “For fam like the Partridges, pardon him for the mix-up. Battle for your Atari cartridges, or put your kicks up.” If this is the closest we get to a De La DOOM project, it’s every bit as good as we hoped for.

At the time—and now still in many ways— Jake was a journeyman despite repping Seattle. A member of G-Unit’s production team, he then signed a deal with Rhymesayers for two albums; his solo debut, White Van Music, as well as The Stimulus Package, a collab with Philly Roc-A-Fella, Freeway. Jake recalls: “Around this time, I just wasn’t feeling the direction I was taking with my own sound, even though it was for bigger names like 50 Cent or whatever. So it just really made me want to get my own album together. You know, just do things where I had more control over. So that’s why I went solo for awhile.” A few years later, he was commissioned to work with Dr. Dre’s production company. 

Jake’s resulting output since includes a quiet catalogue for mainstream elites; Chance The Rapper, Rick Ross, Meg Thee Stallion, Snoop, Drake, and more. His protean approach has more recently given way to disco-boogie tracks as Tuxedo, with partner Mayer Hawthorne. “Yeah it’s crazy, some younger kids just think I do one kind of music or think of me as just part of Tuxedo. They have no idea I make other beats and have been doing all this other music for decades now,” he laughs. I recently called Jake to wax nostalgic over “Rock Co. Kane Flow” to see how something so unforgettably distinct came together.

Tell us how you originally linked with DOOM. And what’s it like working with him?

Jake One: That came from Rhymesayers. They wanted to make beats for DOOM that didn’t have loops because there were lawsuits and it was getting expensive. So I came in because I had already made a ton of beats that were sample-free that I thought were on his vibe. So I sent like 6 or 7 beats and “Trap Door,” which I thought was the dopest one, was the first to come from that. All those DOOM tracks were originally done for licensing more than for actual songs, but he ended up using a bunch for BORN LIKE THIS, so I was stoked. The guy is such an individual. He’ll send back songs from beats I sent him and it would be so off the wall. Most people would just send me a Pro Tools session but he’d send weird stereo tracks where the left side was vocals and the right side were beats, for no reason.

How was he added to “Rock. Co. Kane Flow?”

Jake One: I didn’t even know he was gonna be on there! Posdnous was the one who told me I think. This was still when I had a day job so I remember he called because I was at work. He was very casual about it too and was like, “We did a song to that beat of yours, I think you’re really gonna like it. Yeah, DOOM’s on it.” [laughs]

Talk about the mechanics of the beat. What are some things you remember that went into it?

Jake One: Well, the breakdown was done by hand. The big inspiration behind slowing it down and speeding it up was Roc-A-Fella because it was right when they were hot with the The Dynasty album. And I always loved the beats on that album. What impressed me most was the programming. It felt way more detailed than the underground stuff I was into at the time. They had long intros with switch-ups and crazy kicks. So I just wanted to do something like that and change up the pace. Back then, we didn’t have all digital stuff so that was all done on analog equipment. I actually had to redo the whole beat later so they could properly track it out and get the multi-tracks for the final version. It ended up being slightly different because there was no way I could ever repeat the original again.

Describe working with De La. How did you guys connect?

Jake One: That was really a trip because they’re one of my all time favorite groups. I linked up with them through a really good friend of mine, J. Moore, he was a radio personality and activist. He had a relationship with them, he was really close with Maseo I think. So when I heard they were coming to Seattle, I was like, ‘I really want to make a beat for De La!’ and it was luckily that simple. They had a show and I brought a beat CD and met them afterwards. I don’t even think they knew who I was, but they ended up picking like five different beats and “Rock Co.” was one of them. It was the one that surprised me out of what they picked. And what they do is, Pos grabs a bunch of stuff he thinks is dope and Dave listens and has to agree on it. They make sure they’re on the same wavelength but they’re not always on the same wavelength [laughs]! So that’s an interesting process to see. They actually finished “Rock Co.” before any of the licensing went through because they dug it so much.

Was there a moment or point where you knew the beat was a keeper?

Jake One: I knew it was special because I remember being in New York and playing it for people and everyone I showed it to just flipped the fuck out [laughs]. I was in the studio with Redman one night, and I’m not bragging or nothing, but he played it on repeat for like an hour straight. I even ran into [Redman] semi-recently and he brought it up again!

When was the last time you heard “Rock Co. Kane Flow” and how does it sit with you now?

Jake One: Last time I heard it was when I did this party for Gene Brown. Gene’s this record dealer to the stars kind-of-guy, he gives a lot of people their samples. He had a birthday party in New York and I figured I wouldn’t really ever be around all these people again, so I went. He had a bunch of us just play short sets, mostly of your own material, like four or five tracks. So I’m just playing stuff I’ve done from these last twenty years, and some of it were much bigger hits than “Rock Co.” But man, as soon as I played it, it was a different reaction. It wasn’t a mainstream hit but became an underground song people would always bring up to me. Like I said, I was still at my day job at that point and all these guys started using it to freestyle over— Busta, 50 Cent, all these dudes. Man, it was so dope to see. It’s the one that I did that gave me some of the opportunities still I enjoy today.

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